Archive | September, 2012

Teach a Man to Fish

The age-old adage of “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime” at first seemed to me to just be an excuse for not giving anyone your fish, implicitly saying, “handouts don’t help, but I don’t have the time to teach you.” And even giving a man a fish was often a way of buying his loyalty. Too often, fish was exchanged for power, resulting in relationships that were characterized by dependency. In these scenarios, giving food or money to the hungry and poor is really just a means to an end.  These instances of giving do not aim at the restoration of dignity to the less fortunate, but rather, at the establishment of a relationship that favors those with resources.

But recently I began to view this old truth in a new light. By “teaching a man to fish” you not only feed him for a lifetime, but you allow him to contribute to his own livelihood and well-being. You empower him to do for himself. Even more important than this lifetime supply of fish is his participation in his own well-being. Flipping this power structure on its head are the ethics of empowerment. By empowering someone to fish for themselves, people can become self-sufficient and independent.  In teaching a man to fish, and thus to provide for himself, the balance of power is restored and equality is once again a reality. He no longer has to rely on the whims or kindness of those with resources, but rather has the ability to provide for himself.

And as if dignity and equality aren’t enough, empowerment leads to benefits that are deeply connected to the human psyche. Humans have an intense desire to be of use. Employment is not merely about earning a paycheck– it is about the deeply human desire to want to contribute to the good of the community. This is one of the reasons why unemployment so often leads to depression. And this furthermore makes sense of the rather counterintuitive trend of depressed and anxious lottery winners. After winning the lottery, people often quit work because they no longer have a need for money. But in quitting work they unknowingly strip themselves of a source of identity and meaning. They are no longer producing anything for the community, no longer actively working for the good of others. They are no longer of useand this is devastating to self-esteem.

Thus, teaching a man to fish is actually better than merely giving him a fish, but not just because you can feed him for a lifetime. It restores dignity to previously warped relationships and allows others to be of use, which on a very human level is just as important as fish.


Forum Series: Politics, Race & the November Elections


SEPTEMBER 10 “Civil Rights and Disenfranchisement”
Speaker: Daryl Atkinson, Staff Attorney, Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Hargraves Center, 216 N. Roberson St.,Chapel Hill, 7:00-8:30 pm

SEPTEMBER 20 “Issues of Economic Justice”
Panel: Ajamu Dillahunt (NC Justice Center), Robert Dowling (Community Home Trust), Maxine Eichner (UNC School of Law), Ellen Harnick, Center for Responsible Lending
OWASA Community Rm, 400 Jones Ferry Rd, Carrboro, 7-8:30 pm

OCTOBER 4 “What Will Happen With Health Care?”
Panel: Cedric Bright, MD (Asst. Dean, UNC School of Medicine, President of the National Medical Association), Pam Silberman (CEO, NC Institute of Medicine, Adam Searing (Health Access Coalition, NC Justice Center), Gayle Harris (Director, Durham County Public Health)
United Church of Chapel Hill, 1321 MLK Jr Blvd, 7:00-8:30 pm

OCTOBER 18 “Public Education Disparities”
Panel: Mark Dorosin (Managing Attorney, UNC Center for Civil Rights), Keith Howard (Charlotte School of Law, formerly with Advocates for Children’s Services), Katy Munger (Progress NC)
United Church of Chapel Hill, 1321 MLK Jr Blvd, 7:00-8:30 pm


Sponsored by: The Organizing Against Racism Alliance

For more information: contact Wanda Hunter (;


Why We're Saving

When CEF members applied to be a part of our first Renter’s Savings IDA Program, we asked members a couple questions about why they wanted to join the program.

Here’s why CEF members are saving in their Renter’s Savings account with CEF…

  • “So my kids don’t have to keep suffering.”
  • “To learn to help myself so that I can help my family.”
  • “Because it would give me incentive to save, and I’ve never saved, ever.”
  • “It would make me feel good because it would be available when a real need comes up.”
  • “Will help me build self-confidence and find stability.”
  • “I want to own my own home and need to have secure savings to do that.”
  • “This savings program will give me peace of mind.”
  • “Help”
  • “I would feel more secure to be financially independent.”
  • “Because instead of looking for money to fix things, if you have savings you already have funds in place.”
  • “To show me that even with the little money that I earn, I am still able to save.”

Through this program, we won’t just be partnering with members on their savings goals. We will also be focusing intentionally on their longer-term dreams for their households. When asked, “What are your goals for the next 3 years?” here’s what members are dreaming about…

  • “Purchase a home, build up savings, save in 401K, start building college savings for my four children, and getting healthy!”
  • “My own transportation and starting a business”
  • “Finishing school and paying off student loans”
  • “Build my income. My goal is to help others become stronger in their faith, to not give, and stay motivated.”
  • “I’m just taking it one day at a time. I am trained not to try to think that far ahead.”
  • “Getting my GED and saving for a car”
  • “Be in school and nearer to graduation”

Help us get there together. Sponsor a Saver to join together with one of our 10 pilot Savers, as they continue to invest in their own and their family’s futures.


You're Invited! Meet Savers

Stories of the Long Road Home: How Relationships and Savings are Helping Homeless Families

Join us for an After-Service Coffee & Dessert event
Time: Sunday, September 23rd, 12:15pm
Location: Christ United Methodist Church, 800 Market Street, Chapel Hill, NC

Please join us for a half-hour after the service at Christ Church on Sep 23rd and enjoy coffee and dessert.

You will get to meet and learn from several of CEF’s members who have moved out of the shelter and who will share about their journeys and the unexpected struggles along the way.

This month CEF started a new savings program to help these families sustain their transitions out of homelessness. Members save towards an emergency fund, building a financial safety net for a rainy day. CEF matches members’ savings at 50%, helping families save as much as $3,000 for when they need it most.

CEF needs your help launching this program. The group is recruiting community members interested in sponsoring one of the pilot 10 Savers in this creative program. Learn more, hear incredible stories, and enjoy homemade desserts by joining us on Sep 23rd.

For more information on CEF and its impact in our community, please visit: CEF one-minute video 

And for more information on CEF’s new Sponsor-A-Saver campaign, please see: Sponsor a Saver


Meet a CEF Saver: Robert

Robert will be moving out of the men’s shelter this month. While living in the shelter, he has been saving with CEF towards a security deposit for his new apartment and deposits for utilities. He is disabled and on a fixed income, and has taken the knowledge he gained from our financial education classes to find an affordable apartment that will allow him to continue to save for his future goals.

After he moves, Robert will be continuing to come to our weekly classes to stay connected to the support, resources, and community of the group. Robert has been homeless once before in his life, and when he talks about this move he says excitedly that he “is going to do it right this time. Make plans, keep saving, stay connected.” He is committed to saving monthly towards an emergency fund to make sure that life’s future obstacles don’t bring him back to the shelter.

Robert will be one of 10 pilot members in CEF’s Renter’s Savings Program. The program provides Savers like Robert the opportunity and incentive to save towards an emergency fund, matching savings up to $2,000 with a 50% matching contribution… resulting in an emergency fund of $3,000. Robert is also excited about the opportunities available through this new program to improve his credit score. He dreams of owning his own business and his own home, and knows this is the stepping-stone to those goals.

Help CEF launch this new program. Sponsor a Saver to donate the 50% matching contribution, directly matching the savings deposits of members like Robert.

CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

Chapel Hill: 919-200-0233 Durham: 919-797-9233